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2008 Buyers Guide & Resource Directory

Looking Ahead |  Transatlantic Exchanges, Brokers Put Their Money on European Options Growth |  Research Technology Ready to Enter a 'Breakout Year' |  Next-Generation SMAs In Search of Next-Generation Solutions |  E-Mail Archiving Growth Fueled by Federal Rule Changes | 

Research Technology Ready to Enter a 'Breakout Year'

December 17, 2007
By Alexa Jaworski

The research technology sector has seen a boom over the past few years that some observers say mirrors that of electronic trading earlier this decade. What began with a handful of small companies introducing ways for the buy side to better manage the vast amount of information flooding the in-boxes of portfolio managers is now a business with a steep growth trajectory.

"We are expecting a tremendous amount of growth in IT spending" on research technology among buy-side firms, said Dushyant Shahrawat, research director of TowerGroup's investment management service.

According to Shahrawat, the segments that will see the biggest boost are intelligent search and data mining, research performance measurement and management, research management technology and the fundamental data space--the access and aggregation of financial, economic and other data relevant to investment decisionmaking.

In a report released by the Needham, Mass.-based research firm in October, Shahrawat noted that "the investment research business is finally beginning to exploit technology, and IT will play a crucial role over the next five years at both buy-side and brokerage research departments." TowerGroup estimates that global buy-side spending on research technology will grow to $1.1 billion in 2010, up from $586 million this year.

Research technology still has plenty of room for expansion, said Shahrawat: "While the dollars in aggregate seem large, the vendors in the space are pretty small. It's a cottage industry, so aside from companies ... like S&P and Reuters, most of the others are relatively new upstarts with $3 million to $5 million in revenue. This business is still incubating new companies."

Information Overload

One such company is Boston-based Norbury Financial Systems--a provider of research software that manages the internal operations of investment professionals--which has been addressing the buy side's need to better manage the sea of available information via its flagship product, Norbury Links.

"People on the buy side are demanding more efficient and easier ways to cull from vast amounts of data very quickly," said David Earley, a former co-manager of hedge fund Clipper Capital Management and president and COO of Norbury, which launched Links almost three years ago. For Earley, the biggest challenge portfolio managers and analysts currently confront, and will continue to face in the coming year, is the "infinite amount of data" that they can't process on their own. An average client reads six to seven hundred e-mails per day, he said, but only 5 percent to 10 percent of that may contain useful information.

"What they're demanding is efficient, streamlined ways to make sense of the never-ending river of data that's coming out of research shops, bulge-bracket firms and news Web sites," he said. And for the buy side, he explained, the biggest fear is that an important piece of information will be overlooked.

Due to client demand for better management tools, Earley said that Norbury next year plans to continue to upgrade its e-mail indexing capability. "In the first generation of the product, you could only perform limited e-mail processing," he said. "Next year, we're extending that to account for the thousands of e-mails our users are getting every week."